This is part one of a multipart series on blockchain and crypto in China.
China has been discussing the possibilities of national digital currency for half a decade, and the Chinese digital yuan project — referred to as the Digital Currency Electronic Payment, or DCEP — has years of history. Back in 2014, the People’s Bank of China set up a research group “to study digital currencies and application scenarios.” The research team was conducting a digital currency study and reportedly considering issuing its own digital currency. In 2016, the PBoC announced plans to develop a digital currency of its own and started to hire blockchain experts. The same year, China’s State Council included blockchain technology in its 13th Five-Year Plan.
In 2017, the PBoC launched the Digital Currency Research Institute, which focused on the development and research of digital currencies. According to China’s National Intellectual Property Administration (formally known as the State Intellectual Property Office), the institute filed more than 63 patent applications related to blockchain and crypto during its first year of existence alone. In 2018, a report — released by the Chinese Institute of International Finance, operated under the People’s Bank of China — indicated that the central bank would institute a regulatory crackdown on all types of digital currencies.
Back in July 2019, Wang Xin, director of the PBoC’s research bureau, stated that Facebook’s plan to launch its own stablecoin, Libra (now known as Diem), had influenced China’s plans to launch a digital form of the Chinese yuan. Back then, some experts predicted that the Chinese government-backed digital currency aimed to be rolled out earlier than the official launch of Libra.
Last year, the DCEP project made significant progress; meanwhile, the details of the project remained limited. While the question of whether being the first in launching a CBDC will be enough to win global reserve currency status remains open, China is clearly moving toward leading the charge into the digital economy.
This year alone, China started testing infrastructure for the digital yuan prior to its official launch and the Chinese city of Shenzhen provided a chance for its citizens to participate in a lottery event that aimed to encourage the adoption of the country’s new central bank digital currency. Also this year, China completed the development of hardware wallets for the digital yuan project; the first one was produced by the Xiong’an branch of the Agricultural Bank of China in Hebei and the second by the Postal Savings Bank of China. And earlier in March, the Bank of Communications and China Construction Bank conducted digital yuan trials at two major department stores in Shanghai.
Digital yuan vs. cryptocurrency
A major concern among experts is that China’s CBDC is unlikely to be a cryptocurrency. As was underlined by Bloomberg in 2019: “The PBOC will, of course, back the digital yuan, making it the opposite of decentralized.” China’s new digital currency will most likely be a centralized digital currency rather than a true cryptocurrency. As Shao Fujun, chairman of China UnionPay and a former PBoC official, said back in August 2019, China’s state-owned digital currency “will have lots of positive impacts, including tracking the money flow in economic activities and supporting making monetary policy.”
Mu Changchun, deputy director of the Chinese central bank’s payments department, said back in 2019 that the forthcoming digital yuan would strike the balance between facilitating anonymous payments and preventing money laundering. He repeated the statement earlier this month, saying that a completely anonymous CBDC “is not feasible” because a national digital currency must meet requirements related to Anti-Money Laundering, Counter-Terrorist Financing and anti-tax evasion. Meanwhile, Chinese authorities are willing to ensure maximum user privacy for the country’s central bank digital currency, according to Mu’s recent statement.
The question of whether the PBoC’s currency will be like decentralized blockchain-based cryptocurrencies or if it will give Beijing more control over its financial system is an important one. Nonetheless, the development of the digital yuan has undoubtedly influenced the development of the digital economy both within and outside of China. Cointelegraph reached out to experts in the blockchain and crypto space from China for their opinions on the following questions: How has the development of the digital yuan affected the entire crypto and blockchain industry in China? Will the Chinese CBDC stay centralized or gradually become decentralized over time?
Chang Jia, founder of Bytom and 8btc:
“The Chinese digital yuan is designed and launched by the PBoC (China’s central bank). It is based on the construction of China’s basic financial network for decades, and it is endorsed by state credit. Therefore, its birth undoubtedly encourages China’s whole blockchain industry, especially those corporations that have been persisting in the underlying technology of blockchain, digital currency infrastructure construction, and industrial blockchain solutions for several years to see their future use, and even realize the great vision of listing on the STAR Market.
At the beginning, the Chinese digital yuan DCEP focused on a trial operation in the CCB (China Construction Bank). After proving its basic operation, it will also get basic feedback from all walks of life and urban people’s livelihood in China. With the gradual clarification and strengthening of DCEP in the national economy and the people’s livelihood, such a huge digital currency system like DCEP certainly needs the joint construction of the state and the people in many aspects to create a new digital yuan network and to actively explore internationalization.”
Daniel Lv, co-founder of Nervos:
“The fact that China is working on a digital yuan is proof that there’s value in digital assets and the underlying blockchain technology. The primary purpose of introducing a central bank digital currency is to protect monetary sovereignty out of concern that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will have an impact. The DCEP will also improve the efficiency of payment systems and enhance the convenience of yuan payments.
Blockchain itself is a combination of many existing mature technologies, such as asymmetric cryptography, consensus algorithm, time-stamping, etc. As seen from its latest disclosed patent, DCEP is integrated with asymmetric cryptography, unspent transaction output (UTXO), and smart contracts.
The digital yuan adopts a two-layered system for issuance and distribution — the central bank issues DCEP to banks or other financial institutions, and then these institutions further distribute the digital currency to the public. While the issuance of DCEP is centralized, the circulation could be based on traditional financial account systems or blockchains.
If DCEP transactions happen on a public blockchain, I assume it will probably help the yuan to internationalize. China’s central bank had previously announced that the DCEP pilot scenario included Winter Olympics venues. Foreign entities can simply open a DCEP wallet to conduct the cross-border transaction, as the requirements to open a DCEP wallet are much lower than those to open a yuan deposit account. Peer-to-peer transactions can be initiated between any two DCEP wallets.”
Discus Fish, co-founder of F2Pool and Cobo:
“Essentially, the central bank digital currency is completely different from Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies because it is still the centralized fiat currency in essence. However, the CBDC may strengthen the public’s perception of blockchain and cryptocurrency. In the long run, under the education of the central bank, the blockchain industry will attract a large number of new users, especially the young people growing up in the mobile Internet environment, thus leading to the rapid development of the industry. It has a long-term positive impact on the industry.
The essence of CBDC is the centralized fiat currency, which is still the central bank’s debt to the public. Therefore, the central bank will adhere to the centralized management mode. This relationship between creditor’s rights and debt will not change with the change of monetary form. Therefore, I think no matter how the form develops, it is impossible for the central bank’s digital currency to be decentralized.”
Kevin Shao, co-founder of Bitrise Capital:
“The development of the Internet has brought the popularization of electronic payments, especially the applications of Alipay and WeChat payment, which have changed the habits of many people around using cash. Such changes are profoundly affecting China’s financial development. The central bank is also following the trend of digital economic development, starting from the top-level design of the country, and building a complete set of electronic payment infrastructure.
At present, the central bank has not made a final decision on which technical means will be used for the digital currency. However, we have seen that some cities have experimented with digital currencies. But overall, China’s digital currency still serves the central bank’s monetary policy and monetary functions.”
All interviewees were featured in Cointelegraph China’s Top 100 Notable People in Blockchain of 2020. Cointelegraph China contributed to the interviews.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the authors’ alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
The quotes have been edited and condensed.
DOGE is Young People’s Middle Finger to the System, Says Mike Novogratz
Mike Novogratz, in a research report, stated that Dogecoin is “the most honest shitcoin”, calling it a “store of value” for young people wishing to express a “little bit of a middle finger to the system”.
Dogecoin’s Recent Price Action
DOGE has entered a steep and stunning climb during the past few months, going from mere pennies to over $0.65. Young people betting on the speculative and volatile crypto asset have made staggering amounts of money thanks to the recent insane rate of return.
Many theorize that this rise has been fueled by Tesla founder and business mogul Elon Musk, who often refers to Dogecoin on his infamous Twitter profile, tweeting in a (usually) positive manner. Oftentimes when an “Elon tweet” comes out regarding Dogecoin, it gives a nice little boost to the price.
Most recently, Elon Musk revealed that he would be hosting SNL, dropping a single hint: Dogefather. This enigmatic message has spurred thousands of young people worldwide to invest in DOGE, which, although extremely risky, has been facing undeniably bullish price action as of late. Will Elon Musk’s SNL special provide the fuel needed for DOGE to power through to over a dollar, or will it be a ‘sell the news’ event?
Novogratz Draws Parallels to GME
Novogratz, in his interview, urged people to “listen to what Dogecoin is saying”, as he sees it as very comparable to the GameStop fiasco (where a group of young retail traders pushed GME to new heights, partially in an attempt to liquidate hedge funds that were shorting the stock).
“There is nihilism and excitement to it,” Novogratz stated, adding, “there’s something really pure about it.”
Indeed, Dogecoin is not a successful ‘company’ in the traditional sense, and there is little to no innovative development work going on behind the scenes, but we’ve seen (in the stock market, for example) that the power of the masses if placed behind a single unifying idea, can work wonders.
It’s a massive game of tug of war — whether or not Dogecoin can sustain this dizzying momentum remains to be seen. One thing is for sure: millions of people will be tuning in to watch SNL this week.
Latin America’s Biggest Online Marketplace, MercadoLibre, Disclosed Bitcoin Holdings
On a financial results report dated May 5th, e-commerce giant MercadoLibre dropped the bomb. The company is the latest institution to add Bitcoin to its balance sheet. It follows MicroStrategy, Square, and Tesla’s highly covered buys. Bitcoin’s institutional adoption is in its infancy, but advancing non-stop.
In the financial highlights for 2021’s First Quarter, the company wrote a succinct:
As part of our treasury strategy this quarter we purchased $7.8 million in bitcoin, a digital asset that we are disclosing within our indefinite-lived intangible assets.
A modest allocation, considering MercadoLibre has almost $4B in assets, a cash reserve of $1.1B. It also has a market capitalization of approximately $76B. However, the move might be part of a bigger plan. The company recently opened a section on their website dedicated to real state commerce in Bitcoin and Bitcoin only. The pilot program includes 75 properties and 7 real state agencies willing to accept the cryptocurrency.
The Bitcoin-on-the-balance-sheet club
The investment puts MercadoLibre in a pretty exclusive club. The institutional adoption pioneer was MicroStrategy, a company that then issued bonds to buy even more Bitcoin. Twice. At the time, Bitcoinist reported:
Microstrategy announced today that it purchased $15 million worth of Bitcoin. The company’s CEO, Michael Saylor, tweeted this morning that his company had bought approximately 253 BTC, bringing its total holdings to about 91,579 BTC.
After that, Square announced a moderate buy of $50M worth of Bitcoin, and months later another one of $170M. It’s worth noting that the company buys and sells BTC through their flagship product CashApp. And that it keeps buying more. Six months ago, Bitcoinist reported:
Ikigai Asset Management’s Hans Hague recently noted that per his analysis, Square and Grayscale alone have accumulated $2.3 billion worth of Bitcoin in the past quarter.
The biggest player of all, of course, is Elon Musk’s Tesla. Reports that the company made more money from that investment than for selling cars are all over the Internet. In any case, Tesla made a big splash when it entered the space. Bitcoinist reported:
Traders flocked into the cryptocurrency market a day after American carmaker Tesla announced that it had purchased $1.5bn worth of Bitcoin as “alternative reserve assets” to their cash holdings.
In its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Tesla said it plans to buy more Bitcoin in the future and—maybe—even enable its use as a medium of payment for its products and services.
MercadoLibre stock chart | Source: MELI on TradingView.com
More about MercadoLibre
It may not be a big name in the European and North American markets, but MercadoLibre is ubiquitous in Latin America. The company operates in:
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
In the quoted financial results report, they describe themselves as:
Founded in 1999, MercadoLibre is the largest online commerce ecosystem in Latin America, serving as an integrated regional platform and as a provider of the necessary digital and technology-based tools that allow businesses and individuals to trade products and services in the region. The Company enables commerce through its marketplace platform which allows users to buy and sell in most of Latin America.
A question remains, will Bitcoin holdings make MercadoLibre’s stock rise?
Featured Image by Mark König on Unsplash - Charts: TradingView
Coinsmart. Beste Bitcoin-Börse in Europa
Novogratz’s Galaxy Digital set to acquire BitGo for $1.2B
Galaxy Digital is in the process of acquiring BitGo for $1.2 billion, which would be settled in stock and cash
Galaxy Digital, the firm owned by popular investor Mike Novogratz, is set to acquire BitGo, a leading independent digital assets infrastructure provider. The deal is worth roughly $1.2 billion and will be paid in both stock and cash.
In a press release yesterday Galaxy Digital said, “The acquisition will position Galaxy Digital as a leading global full-service platform for institutions seeking access to the crypto economy, offering an unparalleled breadth of industry-leading products and services at scale.”
Several reports surfaced last month, suggesting that the two companies are in advanced talks regarding an acquisition. Mike Novogratz, CEO and Founder of Galaxy Digital, said the acquisition of BitGo would turn his company into a one-stop-shop for institutions, boosting their efforts to institutionalise digital asset ecosystems and blockchain technology. Novogratz added, “The power of the technology, solutions, and people we will have as a result of this acquisition will unlock unique value for our clients and drive long-term growth for our combined business. We are excited to welcome Mike Belshe and the talented BitGo team to Galaxy Digital.”
Per the terms of the agreement, BitGo shareholders are set to receive 33.8 million newly issued shares of Galaxy Digital common stock. Furthermore, they will be paid $265 million in cash, which brings the total value of the deal to approximately $1.2 billion.
BitGo is one of the leading regulated custodians in the cryptocurrency sector. It currently provides services to over 150 exchanges and 400 institutional clients. BitGo controls over $40 billion in assets under management by supporting the custody of over 400 coins and tokens. BitGo CEO and Founder Mike Belshe said joining Galaxy Digital is an exciting new chapter for the company, allowing their clients to access a wide set of financial solutions.
Galaxy Digital planning to go public in the US
Galaxy Digital is a publicly-listed company in Canada. However, the firm is planning to officially list on a US stock exchange this year. In that regard, the company’s board of directors approved a proposed reorganisation and domestication designed to help the company achieve its goal of going public in the United States.
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